"Beyond Just Music Licensing In Advertising" may be a dry title for a SXSW panel, but this one was particularly relevant: the music festival's become nothing if not an excuse for corporations from Doritos to Nokia to breakfast biscuit company Belvita to try to leverage their interests by associating them with music.
So it was a surprise when members of the panel, especially moderator Eric "DJ Bunny Ears" Johnson (executive producer of music at DDB Chicago), suggested that using music was often a tough sell to ad clients. "Music is a powerful force that's being underutilized," he said at the beginning of the discussion.
The hour-long talk was a casual, informative and often all-over the place (though not haphazard). The conversation ranged from how to speak to bands about their fears of selling out by having their ads in commercials to successful integrations with non-profits to unusual schemes that had worked out for just the musicians and clients.
One example used was a collaboration with the indie band the National and AmEx, in which the band curated a series of concerts at a venue called the Annex, culminating in a surprise bus trip by attending concertgoers to a larger venue featuring a show from the band -- all to raise money for Red Hot. "It was branded AmEx, but it was a good way to launch [their album] "High Violet," said Brigitte Green, the senior director of film & TV at the Beggar's Group.
The panel agreed that in general, agencies, brands and bands are all looking for unusual ways to sell their products these days. "Corporations and agencies are open to the idea of nontraditional agreements," Beta Petrol's Brian Turcotte said. "The message I tell artists is, don't be afraid to tell me what you're comfortable with."
According to Terrorbird director of licensing Lauren Ross, that often can be something traditional; for instance, she said many of her bands -- even ones that had turned down corporate money in the past -- were happy to work with the Oregon Tourism Board on a series of spots. That said, she wasn't disappointed in bands that had passed -- even if it cost her money.
"It's part of respecting [the band] that they're not going to be comfortable with it," she said.